With over 120 million Internet users in the country, the Internet is playing a major role in influencing the decision making of India's growing number of car buyers.
An offline study conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Google India at car showrooms of leading car makers in top 8 metros revealed that one in two car buyers had conducted research online before arriving at the dealership.
The survey also revealed that of those who had researched their purchase online, over 50% changed their choice of car brands after uncovering new information on the web.
The study shed light on how the Internet influences the purchasing decisions of car buyers in India.
Respondents reported that they used the web to research and compare prices, watch online videos and find images, do competitive analysis, find dealer contacts and read both expert and user reviews. Most car buyers also rated OEMs website as the most important and trustworthy source of information.
Of the 50% respondents who went online, 42% said they used search engine as the first source of information, just behind the opinions of friends and relatives' (47%).
On average, car buyers spend 9-12 weeks researching before arriving at their final decision, and of those who turned to the web for assistance, over 90% of shoppers used a search engine to learn more about the cars they were interested in buying.
Buyers rated Internet more important than TV or print media for auto related content, thanks to fast, easy access to necessary information and rich media formats such as online video.
Over 56% car buyers also choose to watch videos online as part of their research, with over 48% rating YouTube as the destination and a important source of information on the Internet.
Speaking about the study's findings, Rajan Anandan, VP & Managing Director of Google India, said: "This offline study substantiates the growing number of auto-related searches we've seen on Google search in India.
"Auto is among the fastest growing vertical in terms of query volumes on Google. Most OEMs have not yet tapped the full potential of the digital medium and we hope this study will help them to understand and engage the Indian consumer online."
These findings are consistent with query trends on Google Web Search. Auto is among the fastest growing vertical on Google, with query volume growth of over 70% year on year. In addition, in 2011 mobile queries grew 125% yoy; from smart phones, the query volumes were almost double at 242%.
With search engines emerging as the starting point for online car research, we dug deep into the search query patterns on Google search in India for insights into the minds of consumers across the nation.
In terms of query volume growth: SUVs was the fastest growing car segment growing at (83% yoy), followed by premium cars (82%), sedans (75%), luxury cars (74%) and hatchback cars were growing at (53% yoy).
Based on the search query volumes, we also looked at the top 10 most searched cars based query volumes Google search in India in 2011:
Top 10 most searched new car launches in 2011:
● Hyundai Eon
● Mahindra XUV 500
● Honda Brio
● Tata Manza
● Maruti Kizashi
● Toyota Liva
● Hyundai Verna
● Nissan Sunny
● Skoda Rapid
● Ford Fiesta